Getting people back to fled Grand Bahama and the Abacos after Hurricane Dorian back to work is a monumental challenge.
But cheers to the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) and the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) which, in tandem with public and private sector tourism partners in the region and South Florida, launched "Tourism Jobs for Bahamians" to secure temporary employment for workers displaced by Hurricane Dorian.
The storm blew more than 2,500 hospitality professionals out of work on Grand Bahama and the Abacos, eliminating jobs that were supporting more than 10,000 family members in these islands, according to the CHTA.
"The strong Bahamas tourism sector has created a wealth of skilled and dedicated tourism professionals who would be an asset to any hotel or tourism business," said Patricia Affonso-Dass, president of the CHTA and the manager of Ocean Hotels in Barbados.
"Even short-term, seasonal positions would allow these Bahamian professionals not only to enhance other destinations but also to expand their own skills and experience," she said.
To identify available temporary positions, the CHTA deployed its Caribbean Tourism Job Bank https://jobbank.caribbeanhotelandtourism.com/, which was originally set up in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
"This is a targeted effort for impacted Bahamians that will continue at least through the next five months," said Frank Comito, the CHTA's director general and CEO.
The plan aims to connect Bahamian job seekers with opportunities in the 80% of the Bahamas not impacted by Dorian, as well as with job openings throughout the Caribbean region and in the U.S. and Canada.
The site is available to tourism employers looking to post jobs and to candidates seeking jobs.
Job seekers can visit the portal to create a personal profile and resume as well as search for available positions.
The CHTA is waiving the cost of posting jobs for non-CHTA member hotels for the duration of this project.
The CHTA urged potential employers to utilize the Job Bank to post openings for the full range of hospitality and tourism functions, such as management and supervisory positions; marketing and accounting roles; and chefs, bartenders, groundskeepers and engineers.
On Sept. 26, two days after the launch, postings numbered well over 150 and covered a variety of available hospitality positions: an opening for a sous chef at The Fred in St. Croix; an activities and fitness leader at the Body Holiday in St. Lucia; a restaurant supervisor/host at Graycliff Hotel & Restaurant in Nassau.
New jobs are added daily, the CHTA said.
Early responders to the appeal were properties in the Bahamas, including Sandals with two resorts in Nassau and Exuma; the Baha Mar complex in Nassau and Atlantis Paradise Island; and hotels in the Out Islands of Eleuthera, Exuma, Andros, Bimini, Cat Island and Long Island.
The CHTA is hopeful that a temporary waiver of visa restrictions for Bahamians seeking work, particularly in South Florida, will be implemented, and it said that several efforts are underway.
"We've launched an outreach effort with the Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association to support postings of available positions," Comito said.
Hotel employers there reportedly have difficulties filling many positions, given the low employment rate in the area, according to the CHTA. And many affected Bahamians have extended friends and family in South Florida who can provide support, such as housing, to help tide them over the period before they return to the Bahamas, the CHTA said.